Kristin talks with Dr. Annie of Rise Wellness Chiropractic about how to keep yourself and your family healthy during pregnancy and a pandemic!  You can listen to this complete podcast episode on iTunes or SoundCloud.

Welcome.  You’re listening to Ask the Doulas, a podcast where we talk to experts from all over the country about topics related to pregnancy, birth, postpartum, and early parenting.  Let’s chat!

Kristin:  I’m Kristin, co-host of Ask the Doulas with Gold Coast Doulas, and I am joined today by Dr. Annie.  She’s here to chat with us from Rise Wellness Chiropractic.  Welcome, Dr. Annie!

Dr. Annie:  Thank you so much for having me, Kristin.  I’m so happy to be here!

Kristin:  Yeah, it’s been a while since we’ve chatted with you on the podcast!

Dr. Annie:  Probably since pre-COVID.

Kristin:  Yeah, and now we’re doing our podcast virtually versus in our office studio space.

Dr. Annie:  It’s weird not sitting across the table from you but being across the table from my computer, instead.

Kristin:  Exactly!  I’d love to you fill in our listeners and clients a bit about your specialties, your practice at Rise, and then we’ll get into talking about pregnancy and stress.

Dr. Annie:  Awesome.  Sure.  I am a pediatric certified chiropractor, and I’m also certified in Webster technique, which is a special technique for pregnancy.  So we practice basically mostly around pregnancy and perinatal care and then also see kiddos and helps with them with their spines as they grow, also.  So that’s kind of what we do.  We adjust really gently, and we look at the nervous system and help families improve their nervous system function.

Kristin:  And you are located, of course, in Grand Rapids to serve West Michigan families, and just to fill in our listeners a bit about Webster and how that’s different from general chiropractic care, could you give a little bit of background about the Webster technique?

Dr. Annie:  Of course.  The Webster technique kind of started being developed probably in the ’80s, and it was focused on pregnant bodies and how the alignment of the pelvis affects the uterus and torsion in the uterus, as well, so that affects baby positioning and everything.  That was kind of how it was developed because pregnant women need specialized care.  We can’t just adjust them like any other adult body.  There’s relaxin in the system, so we need to be very specific and very gentle when it comes to adjusting pregnant bodies, especially as baby is growing and as mom becomes more uncomfortable in the pregnancy.  And then that also kind of translates into different specialized care for postpartum bodies, as well, and also for infants and kids, too.

Kristin:  And ideally, like with our clients, they like to come to you as early as pregnancy — it’s optimal to see you early, but also, you always take last-minute patients, especially if baby is malpositioned and we need to do some work positioning-wise.  So how does that all translate into — since it is a specific technique, can some of the work you’re doing as a Webster-certified chiropractor also help the nervous system and — or would that be different chiropractic care in addition to seeing you for prepping for birth?

Dr. Annie:  That’s a great question.  I think there’s a little bit of a disconnect with how we think about chiropractic care as a musculoskeletal alignment approach and a nervous system approach.  All chiropractic is centered around the spine because that’s what protects our central nervous system.  That’s how our brain communicates and coordinates everything that happens in our body.  So the benefits of any adjustment, whether it is for a pain basis or a musculoskeletal approach, is affecting the body through the nervous system, and that’s how we heal.  And so that better alignment affects the nervous system from a basic standpoint, but then with Webster technique specifically, because we’re looking at the alignment of the pelvis for birth, that is also going to influence the nervous system and how labor happens, basically.  So the communication between the brain and the uterus during contractions, that is all going to be affected, also, by the alignment of the pelvis.

Hey, Alyssa here.  I just wanted to hop on real quick and let everyone know about a really exciting new course that Kristin and I have been working on called Becoming.  It’s all about becoming a mother, and in six weeks online, we will be giving video lessons and live coaching calls weekly with Kristin and I, along with a private Facebook community to offer encouragement and support.  This six-week online class will actually be launching beta, which is our first launch, on March 22 with our live call on March 26.  You can get into this beta program at a really, really super reduced price, so check us out on our website to join.  We’d love to have you join us and learn all about pregnancy, birth, and early parenting and especially during this scary time of COVID.  Let us be your expert guides.  We hope to see you there!

Kristin:  Obviously, especially during COVID, women are under a lot of stress and strain in their pregnancy.  How can chiropractic care help them reduce their stress and stay healthy?

Dr. Annie:  This is a big question, a big multifaceted question, I feel like.  So the stress of COVID is just — I mean, it’s insane.  I feel like we all are really good at adapting, as human beings, to doing Zoom calls instead, limiting who we see and limiting our time outside, and jobs have pivoted and all of that stuff, and we’ve gotten used to all this background stress in our lives, right?  For pregnant women, too, we’ve kind of shifted how women are being seen for their prenatal visits, who they can bring with them, even what their birth process looks like, whether it’s in the hospital.  We’ve had a lot of moms who have switched to doing home births because of regulations in the hospital, too.  So it’s just layers and layers of stress, right?  Especially if you’re trying to plan for bringing an infant into the world.  That is also compacted with jobs being shifted to being at home.  A lot of people are working at home, sitting a lot more, especially when it’s below 10 degrees outside here.  So they’re sitting more; we’re not moving as much as we normally do.  There’s all this background stress, and a lot of times, we’re sitting and working on laptops because who has a desktop computer anymore?  So ergonomics: there’s a lot of biomechanics that are shifted into this, and then we also have the stress component, too, on top of it.  So, again, layers and layers and layers of stress on our bodies, especially if you’re a pregnant body and tend to be more hypermobile because of the hormones that are going on.  So lots going on there.  How we address that from a chiropractic approach: we measure nervous system stress.  We use electromyography, which is the electrical activity in muscles that support the spine, and then we also measure heart rate variability, which is a specific stress outcome measure.  So we can see if your body is super stressed out, if your nervous system’s stressed out, or if we’re super burnt out, too.  Those are the things that we measure in our practice before we even start care so we can see, like, how is this mom doing, and how is this baby doing, too?  We’re seeing some really stressed out babies, too.  We can measure that as we’re adjusting and as we’re going through care to make sure that things are functioning better and that our resiliency is raised so our stress outcomes are better.  It doesn’t mean that we’re not going to have all of the stress on our bodies because it’s just kind of the reality that we’re living with right now, but it makes us more adaptable and able to better combat that stress and switch back into parasympathetics.

Kristin:  And I’ve even been in your office when you’ve instructed patients to do different stretches, and you’re looking at, again, what their day-to-day looks like as well as assessing their body and giving them tips.  And you had talked a bit about the isolation, and your practice has this wonderful sense of community with your online space, and women are able to connect.  And you also give tips out every week on your Facebook page, and so you’ve done a great job of trying to connect your patients and reduce some of the isolation that COVID has caused.

Dr. Annie:  Thank you so much.  Yeah, it’s hard.  I mean, I’m an extroverted person.  I feel so grateful that I get to still see my patients, you know, and that we were able to stay open through the pandemic.  I’d go crazy sitting at home by myself.  And I know that so many people feel that way.  Especially with birth, bringing children into this world.  We always say it takes a village, and that community and village is nonexistent right now, and that breaks my heart because I think that’s something that we don’t talk about as a society enough.  It’s the social and emotional impacts of the stress and not being able to have that sense of community.

Kristin:  Exactly.  And we have so many people who are not originally from Grand Rapids that even, you know, taking the COVID factor of isolation away, if they’re new to the community, it’s like they need that sense of support.  And going to some of your general healthcare professionals, like a chiropractor during pregnancy, can create some of that community.  Even the virtual classes that we teach, we’ve had students exchange emails and wanting to go on walks, safely distanced with masks, and find a way to connect with people who are going through the same exact thing.

Dr. Annie:  Yeah, I think that’s incredible.  We had two families come in kind of back to back in our office last week, and it was so cute because they we both kids and they both, like, went and grabbed toys and kind of played six feet apart but were shouting back and forth to each other.  Kids need that, too.  They need that sense of community.  We’re social beings.  We have a vagus nerve, and that is, you know, that’s our brake pedal.  That’s a lot of our parasympathetic activities in our bodies, and that is all — you know, we need that social engage to help with our stress, too.

Kristin:  Yeah, what was that study — I saw an article about the number of hugs the average human is supposed to receive in a day, and it’s surprisingly high, like 12 or 13, from what I recall.

Dr. Annie:  Yeah, but with kids, it’s in the 60s or something like that.  Yeah.  That’s all polyvagal theory.  That’s how we socialize and how we — that touch and human interaction is so important.

Kristin:  Yes!  Getting back to the topic of stress and pregnancy and COVID, what tips do you have for our listeners to reduce stress and what resources to you recommend connecting them with?

Dr. Annie:  Yeah.  Anything that we think of, just kind of generally, if we’re reducing stress.  Like, we often think of yoga, medication, deep breathing, those kinds of things.  Those are all good because they help stimulate that parasympathetic side of our nervous system, which is like our rest and digest — like I said earlier, it’s our brake pedal.  If we think of sympathetic, our flight or flight, as our gas pedal; it’s like the go-go-go.  We’re being chased by a tiger.  Our parasympathetics are to unwind, be able to sleep at night, that kind of stuff.  Digest our food; that’s all normal parasympathetic activity.  So anything that we think of as stress-relieving — deep breathing, all of that — helps stimulate our vagus nerve, and that is our brake pedal, so that stimulates our parasympathetic activity in our bodies.  So, like I said, yoga, deep breathing, all that stuff is really good.  Chiropractic care is super important about maintaining that balance, too, between our sympathetic and parasympathetic activity, and that’s one of the reasons that we measure heartrate variability in our office is so that we can, again, make sure that people’s stress resiliency is changing.  Other things, I mean, having that sense of community.  It feels like we’re so busy, even though our time is spent mostly at home.

Kristin:  Right.  I feel that, for sure!

Dr. Annie:  Making time for Zoom calls with friends, phone calls, Facetime, that kind of stuff, maintaining that sense of community and friendship is so, so important.  I can’t tell you the number of the people that come in and say something like, I just had a two-hour phone call with my best friend, and after that call, I just felt so much better.  I felt awake and alive and felt rejuvenated afterwards.  That’s because we need that social interaction.  We have community and friends for a reason.  Even though it feels a little inconvenient or it feels like — I don’t know; I get in ruts where it feels more stressful to set time aside to have a call or something like that, but I always feel so much better afterwards.

Kristin:  As an entrepreneur, there’s always work to do, so to carve out that time does seem like a lot, but it’s worth it.  I totally agree.

Dr. Annie:  And having conversations with people.  It’s all — it’s so good.

Kristin:  Especially when — I mean, again, you’re pregnant; you’re isolated; you’re trying to hear positive birth stories and surround yourself with people who support you and your baby, so yeah, finding a way to connect and to move your body, as we talked about; yoga or walking.  Just connecting with nature in some way, even though it’s cold; finding ways to move versus being stuck at a desk all day.

Dr. Annie:  Exactly.  All of that is super beneficial.  And, I mean, we’ve been telling our moms, you know, if you take some kind of online birth class, try to meet other moms.  Especially with first-time moms, they need to bounce ideas and, like you said, hear positive birth stories.

Kristin:  Exactly.

Dr. Annie:  With other women that are going through the same things that they are because there’s a lot that’s not talked about with pregnancy, just kind of in general, until you get into a conversation with a mom and they’re like, oh, yeah, you know, I get vagina lightning.  Where it’s like, I didn’t know that — I thought that was just me.

Kristin:  Yeah.  The things your friends don’t tell you.  Yeah.  Unless you’re in a class where it’s openly discussed or in some sort of a mom’s group, but yeah, it’s not anything that my friends ever passed on to me, and most of them had kids before I did.

Dr. Annie:  Well, and some of the things, you don’t think about until somebody’s like, you know, this has been hurting me a lot; have you had this?  Have you felt this?

Kristin:  Right.  So how can our listeners connect with you, first of all?  My second question would be, how can they find a Webster-certified chiropractor in their area?

Dr. Annie:  Good call.  We’re based in Eastown in Grand Rapids, West Michigan.  We have a website or you can find us on Facebook and Instagram at Risewellnesschiro.  They can find us that way.  We schedule people over Instagram and social media.

Kristin:  Yeah, you’re very active on social media, so people can message you and reach out if they don’t directly contact you at your website.

Dr. Annie:  Yep.  We also have our email addresses and stuff on all of those things.  Everything is interrelated, so — and it will be Rachel, my partner, or I reaching back out to you.  Even if you just have questions about general pregnancy stuff, too, if you’re having trouble finding a chiropractor in your area, we’re more than happy to help with that, too.  The best way that I would say to find a Webster certified chiropractor if you don’t live in West Michigan or if you don’t live in Grand Rapids — West Michigan is huge — is to go to the ICPA website.  That’s the International Chiropractic Pediatrics Association.  That’s who I’m certified through.  That’s who does the Webster does the Webster certification, and actually, it was all started by Larry Webster.  On their website, the very top link is to find a chiropractor near you, so you just type in your ZIP code and it will take you to the search.

Kristin:  So helpful!  Thank you.  We appreciate your time today, Dr. Annie, and I hope we can chat again soon in person!

Dr. Annie:  I hope so, too.  I miss seeing you guys.

Kristin:  We miss you, too!  Take care!

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